Depth chart end of April:
Keenan Lewis – fought through a leg injury almost the entire month
When JC superstars Aaron Miller and Edorian McCullough signed with Oregon State many Beaver fans penciled in the all-stars as the starting cornerbacks in the fall and looked to the spring as a chance to watch the second stringers compete. Not so fast my orange and black friends.
The lanky Keenan Lewis was one of the top performers for the defense in April and Miller or McCullough will have their work cut out for them if they want a starting spot. Lewis doesn’t have a lot strength but makes up for his lack of bulk with his technique. He is a super leaper, has long arms, and can recover well. Lewis improved as the month wore on, despite a leg injury, and was the only cornerback that could consistently stay with the Beaver receivers. He is by far the best cornerback on the team.
Gerard Lawson had a marvelous year on special teams last year so you know he is a hard worker. He not very tall, but has good upper body strength and is very physical at the line of scrimmage. Lawson does a nice job of knocking receivers off their route, but if it is a jump ball, he is in trouble.
Converted running back Rickey Herod was perhaps the most improved player on the unit. He started out rough as he adjusted to the new position, but as he got more comfortable with the coach and his teammates he started to improve. Herod still has plenty of work to do with body placement and jamming the receiver, but if he improves in the fall at the rate he did in April, he will be a solid backup and a good special teams performer.
Bryan Payton was expected to compete for a starting role, but did not progress as quickly as some had hoped. Payton has a nice blend of strength and size, but still needs to work on his mechanics. One technique that the coaches tried to pound into Payton’s head was to stick his head down and run to where the ball will land as opposed to tracking the ball in the air on the fly (Herod really excelled at this technique). The redshirt freshman had trouble with this technique as he was beat several times down field and did not recover well.
Kellen Marshall went through spring drills without getting injured and looked to be at or near 100%. Much like Herod, he is developing nicely and will be a solid backup. Plus, out of the cornerbacks, he has been in the system the longest, and will provide the unit with leadership.
Brandon Hughes is the least polished of the cornerbacks and faces an uphill battle for playing time. He will be a valuable contributor on special teams and if he learns from his teammates and coaches could work his way into a backup role.
While there are no Brandon Browners or Dennis Weathersbys in the group they are a young, hungry and developing. As a unit they are very physical at the line of scrimmage and do not shy away from contact. One of their weaknesses is not having enough game experience, but that will change shortly and will become one of their strengths in 2006.
Top spring performer:
Keenan Lewis. One of the top defensive performers despite dealing with a nagging injury. Looked comfortable and confident in starting role and will most likely keep a starting spot.
Spring cornerbacks summary in three sentences or less:
Lewis is the real deal. Lawson, Payton, Herod, and Marshall will have to work hard to keep McCullough or Miller out of a starting role.
Aaron Miller and Edorian McCullough will be hard to keep off the field, if they make it to Corvallis. McCullough may not qualify, which is unfortunate, since he would be a huge boost not only to the secondary but also to special teams.
Henderson and Thompson will redshirt while Clark may help out on special teams.